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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Some thoughts about banks - and how come people fall for all this second rate guff?

Over the years I have seen both sides of most of the big banks in this country. I’ve done work and had business or personal accounts with them and they are bloody useless in both areas.

Lloyds Bank is deep in the doo-doo again, and that Spanish chap who did so well at Santander has taken to his bed.

I’m not in the least surprised. Not just because anyone who thinks the famous financial genius Lewis Hamilton is the right face for a bank must be a bit simple, but because I’ve suffered as a Lloyds customer since 1977.

I only retain an account with them because I get a decent overdraft and can’t be bothered to move to FirstDirect who are, I am told competent. But I still can’t understand why Lloyds computer regularly refuses to give me cash when I go to New York – five or six times every year.

I have suffered from Lloyds as a supplier, too. I introduced them to direct marketing in the early ‘80s, and God, it was hard work. I wrote a ten point proposal in the cab going over - which now forms part of one of the early chapters in Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing.

I didn't mean it to be done in such a hurry - I thought my colleague had done one and vice-versa.

Lloyds' main problem was an utter inability to actually do anything. This was largely because they carefully created a bottleneck in their system. Everything we did had to be approved by one nitwit, ignorant of all marketing and, like most big company marketers, disinclined to learn. So progress was snail-like.

Years later I did a proposal for them for the launch of an internet bank. That project (nothing came of it) was being managed entirely by outside consultants, which brings a whole new plangent meaning to the phrase abdication of responsibility.

When I worked with the Bank of Scotland one executive said at a conference of financial marketers that everything we ever did for them beat what it was tested against – but they still kept the account with one big useless agency. It is astonishing that return on investment doesn’t matter to a bank.

The only bank client who seemed any good was with the Banco Comercial Portuges, but he stiffed me for £5,000 eventually.

My solution for the banks is simple.

1. Move your headquarters to somewhere much cheaper.

2. Fire half the people there at random and give some of the savings to the poor bastards who work in the branches.

3. Ban all meetings that a) last longer than 30 minutes b) where all present cannot give a good reason
why and c) do not produce a decision to act with a time by which that action is to be taken, and a person deputed to make sure it is.

4. Cease all marketing that cannot be proven to either a) get more customers or b) get customers to stay longer or c) get them to spend more - or is measured by means of qualitative research alone.

The banks are not the only people without a clue, though. A year ago I wrote about an insurance mailing that I swear will work, and am prepared to do a profit-sharing deal with any firm that will run it.

A few people replied including one from AXA who said he was there to “shake things up” and one from another firm who claimed to be keen. Nothing happened.

One reason nothing happens in business is because of the amount of useless bullshit, useless bullshitters and useless people who fall for it.

The other day a firm offered a report called Strategically Social: 5 Keys to Becoming a Social Business, so I replied out of curiosity.

The report was full of statistics and words like empowering and leveraging, but told me absolutely nothing anyone even half-well-informed shouldn't know, No wonder: the writer was a CRM expert: i.e. a specialist in busted flushes.

A salesman called Randy followed up three times – quite right: they want to take money off me.

He was “touching base … to get some general feedback. How is Drayton Bird Associates currently active in the social media space?”

So, clearly no research had been done, other than into all-purpose corporate cliché.

In the third follow-up he wanted to discuss “how Drayton Bird Associates is currently using, or plans to use, social media to achieve your overall corporate objectives."

I replied “The day I start having "overall corporate objectives" is the day I quit, Randy.

What I do is make money, and to help in that I post on blog, twitter and facebook plus send out emails totalling between them about 50 times a week.

It works just fine.”

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